Clint Eastwood defends his empty-chair RNC speech

Clint Eastwood addresses the RNC ... and a chair ... in Tampa, Fla. on Aug. 30.
Clint Eastwood addresses the RNC ... and a chair ... in Tampa, Fla. on Aug. 30.Charles Dharapak / AP

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By TODAY on the Trail

By Scott Stump, TODAY contributor

As far as Clint Eastwood is concerned, when it comes to his headline-making speech involving an empty chair at the Republican National Convention last week, it made his day.

 “I may have irritated a lot of lefties, but I was aiming for people in the middle,’’ Eastwood told The Carmel (Calif.) Pine Cone, his hometown paper. “I had three points I wanted to make. That not everybody in Hollywood is on the left, that Obama has broken a lot of promises he made when he took office, and that the people should feel free to get rid of any politician who’s not doing a good job. But I didn’t make up my mind exactly what I was going to say until I said it.”  

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While the 82-year-old actor admitted his unscripted, 12-minute speech on Aug. 30 was “very unorthodox,” he felt his message got across to the audience he was trying to reach despite the fact that he rambled and hesitated at points during it.

“President Obama is the greatest hoax ever perpetrated on the American people,’’ he said. “Romney and Ryan would do a much better job running the country, and that’s what everybody needs to know.’’

The speech, which included addressing an empty chair representing President Obama, was panned by liberal reporters and critics as a messy ramble that made Eastwood seem unhinged. However, thousands of supporters came to Eastwood’s defense on social media. Eastwood admitted that he hates using a teleprompter and that using the empty chair as a prop did not come to him until about 20 minutes before he delivered his speech. He was in the green room waiting to go on stage when he got the idea.

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“There was a stool there, and some fella kept asking me if I wanted to sit down," he said. "When I saw the stool sitting there, it gave me the idea. I'll just put the stool out there and I'll talk to Mr. Obama and ask him why he didn't keep all of the promises he made to everybody."

Mitt Romney’s campaign aides attempted to get a feel beforehand for what Eastwood was going to say in his speech, but he said that was essentially an impossible task. Eastwood said that Romney and Ryan were “very enthusiastic” and “laughing’’ when they greeted him following the speech.

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“They vet most of the people, but I told them, ‘You can’t do that with me because I don’t know what I’m going to say,’’’ Eastwood said. “It was supposed to be a contrast with all of the scripted speeches, because I’m Joe Citizen. I’m a movie maker, but I have the same feelings as the average guy out there.’’

Eastwood only came up with the framework for his speech a few hours before he delivered it. A former mayor of Carmel, he admitted to not having much experience delivering speeches in front of large audiences.

“They've got this crazy actor who's 82 years old up there in a suit," he said. "I was a mayor, and they're probably thinking I know how to give a speech, but even when I was mayor I never gave speeches. I gave talks."

Scott Stump once watched all five Dirty Harry movies in a row while procrastinating with a term paper due in college.